Whilst some men may enjoy more simple, time-only timepieces, others – like us – prefer complications. The more the better. And no complication is better, more practical (or more fun) than the chronograph.
First invented by French artist and watchmaker Louis Moinet in 1816, the chronograph is one of the most important complications in all of watchmaking. Chronographs are simply watches that can be used as a stopwatch as well as telling the time.
Unsurprisingly, chronographs found an eager audience among athletes, pilots and motorsports fanatics, who all found watches that were able to quickly and accurately time things on the fly totally essential. These days, chronographs might have mostly been superseded by our mobile phones or digital stopwatches, but their elegance and sporty character continue to captivate watch fans.
Time is of the essence: here are some of the best chronograph watches on the market.
In this best chronograph watches article…
- TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph Glassbox
- Longines Spirit Flyback
- Grand Seiko Tentagraph
- Rolex Cosmograph Daytona
- IWC Schaffhausen Portofino Chronograph
- Patek Philippe Nautilus Chronograph Date
- Chopard Mille Miglia
- A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus Chronograph
- Baume & Mercier Riviera Chronograph
- Bulgari Octo Finissimo Chrono
- Breguet Type 20
- Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43
- OMEGA Speedmaster Moonwatch Professional
- Our research & why you should trust us
TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph Glassbox
Simply put, the TAG Heuer Carrera is one of the most important and iconic chronographs ever made. Named after the notoriously difficult Mexican road rally, the Carrera Panamericana, and designed for motorsport from the get-go, its clean, functional design continues to win hearts and minds. This 39mm retro-inspired take on the Carrera formula melds 70s design elements (like its eponymous, highly domed ‘glass box’ crystal) with modern finishing techniques and a thoroughly modern movement, TAG Heuer’s new TH20-00 calibre.
Longines Spirit Flyback
Longines has more credibility when it comes to chronographs than most watchmakers – for instance, they invented the first-ever flyback chronograph – which the new Spirit Flyback pays homage to. Extremely precise, and with a power reserve of 68 hours, this COSC-certified chrono looks particularly cool on a NATO strap.
Grand Seiko Tentagraph
Grand Seiko’s first-ever mechanical chronograph is an absolute show-stopper. It’s called the ‘Tentagraph’ because it boasts a movement with a frequency of ten beats per second, a three-day (72-hour) power reserve, and it is an automatic chronograph. Get it? A titanium case, ceramic bezel and a deep blue dial with Grand Seiko’s signature “Mt. Iwate” pattern only adds to its appeal, as does its exhibition caseback, which reveals its immaculate movement finished with Côtes de Genève and a unique Tentagraph rotor.
Rolex Cosmograph Daytona
The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona hardly needs an introduction. Introduced in 1963, the Daytona was created to meet the singular demands of the professional race car driver. Today, it’s one of the world’s most coveted watches. In its current incarnation, the watch features a patented in-house chronograph mechanism and a bezel with a tachymetric scale – perfect for recording your lap times, or how long someone stares at your Rolex.
IWC Schaffhausen Portofino Chronograph
Do you like Italian sports cars? So does IWC Schaffhausen, who took the inspiration for the sleek push-buttons on the Portofino Chronograph from the cockpit of 1960s Italian motoring icons. In keeping with the sporty aesthetic, the watch features a minimalist dial with appliquéd Roman numerals and a convex sapphire glass. A Milanese mesh bracelet is available in addition to the classic alligator leather strap.
Patek Philippe Nautilus Chronograph Date
The ultimate baller watch, the Patek Philippe Nautilus Chronograph Date in rose gold takes the already highly desirable Nautilus and adds a novel chronograph complication to boot. A 60-minute and 12-hour mono-counter at 6 o’clock maintains dial symmetry, while elegantly integrated chrono pushers maintain the Nautilus’ famous form. If you’re going to buy one Patek Philippe watch, make it this one.
WATCH our guide to the most expensive watches of all time below.
Chopard Mille Miglia
Named after one of the world’s most famous races, the Chopard Mille Miglia is a chronograph for real revheads. Classically styled and highly legible, it’s filled with cool little motifs, such as a subtle red Mille Miglia direction arrow below the Chopard logo at 12 o’clock and a steering wheel design on the crown. Its strap features a tread pattern based on that of a 1960s Dunlop racing tyre. It’s the perfect watch for the vintage car enthusiast.
A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus Chronograph
A. Lange & Söhne is a highly prestigious firm that has a long history of producing some of the most refined, complicated and stylish timepieces in horological history. The Odysseus Chronograph is the brand’s first-ever automatic chronograph, and its new L156.1 Datomatic calibre also has quite a novel way of recording elapsed time: like a double chronograph (a type of watch Lange is famous for), it’s got two chronograph hands: a red one to track seconds and a lozenge-tipped silver one to track minutes.
Baume & Mercier Riviera Chronograph
The Baume & Mercier Riviera Chronograph offers all of the thrills of expensive chronograph variants of popular integrated bracelet luxury sports watches without an eye-watering price tag… Yet it’s a properly luxe beast in of itself. Mounted on a grey rubber strap, this model features a sandblasted titanium bezel with a subtle PVD gold ring, plus a Valjoux chronograph movement with a day-date function – a rarity at this price point.
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Chrono
First introduced in 2014, the Bulgari Octo Finissimo has quickly become one of the most exciting and in-demand watches on the planet, and the focus of many record-breaking feats of horology. Take this: the Octo Finissimo Chrono, which has the world’s thinnest mechanical chronograph movement. Elegant and avant-garde, this is a chronograph like no other.
Breguet Type 20
The world’s oldest watch brand, Breguet also has a long history of producing chronographs – especially pilot’s chronographs, such as the Type 20. This 2023 version of the esteemed pilot’s watch is inspired by the ref. 1100 delivered to the French Air Force between 1955 and 1959. Its thin fluted bezel and unusual diamond-shaped crown make it really stand out. Don’t sleep on Breguet.
Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 43
Speaking of pilot’s chronographs, the Breitling Navitimer isn’t just one of the world’s most well-known chronographs, it’s probably the world’s most famous pilot’s watch, too. Boasting a circular slide rule that allows pilots to perform on-the-fly flight calculations, the latest incarnation of Breitling’s iconic watch also features a subtly domed sapphire crystal and cool new dial colours in shades of blue, green and copper, such as the one above.
OMEGA Speedmaster Moonwatch Professional
Finally, we end on a classic. No serious discussions about chronographs can be had without mentioning the OMEGA Speedmaster Moonwatch, which was the first watch on the moon and was an essential part of all six moon landings (and the inspiration for the most hyped watch in recent memory, the MoonSwatch). Like those original Moonwatches, this modern Speedy features a Hesalite crystal – but unlike the OGs, its hand-wound Calibre 3861 is Master Chronometer certified.
Our research & why you should trust us
Our research process for selecting these best chronograph watches is based on our previous experience trying on and owning these watches for ourselves. We have over 15 years of experience in the luxury watch space.
- We have tried on every single one of these watches and rigorously tested their functions, features and wearability, and we regularly update this article.
- There’s no product placement in this article – this is our pure, unadulterated opinion informed by years of experience writing about watches.
- Some of these watches on this list are watches we own ourselves – we’ve put our money where our mouths are.
- While this list (as well as DMARGE’s broader editorial focus for watches) focuses on luxury watches, we’ve provided a diverse mix of price points, materials, case sizes, aesthetics and brands in order to provide a thorough cross-section of the chronographs on the market.
- All of the watches included are manufactured by reputable, established brands that have been in the watch business for many years. No dodgy microbrands here!
- We regularly attend watch fairs in person such as Watches & Wonders as well as visit boutiques both officially and off the clock in order to stay up-to-date on the watch industry.